Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge

Source: Didiher Chacón, director of the South Caribbean Marine Turtle Conservation Program - Widecast.

About
The refuge is located in the southern Caribbean coast of the country, in the Talamanca county of Limón province. Gandoca beach is located within the Refuge and is an important nesting site for the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) and to a lesser degree, for green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata).

The refuge also has a great diversity of ecological areas from beautiful beaches to the important mangroves of the Gandoca Lagoon. Ecotourism management at this site has improved greatly the economy of the community through the great help of  Widecast and its conservation efforts in Gandoca.

¿How to get there?
To reach Gandoca you must take a bus from San José to Sixaola (the trip takes approximately 7 hours) at "Los Caribeños" bus station (located in San José at the eastern side of the Children's Museum). It's approximately 12 km from Sixaola to Gandoca and the trip must be made by taxi.

Planning the visit
To see the leatherback turtles spawn in Gandoca the best time is during the months of February through September, and the season peak is in April and May. Upon arrival to the place, you may go to the Widecast research station where you may find a volunteer coordinator and register for the tour, in which a lecture is given and then there's a walk on the beach to observe a complete nesting process of the turtles. It is also possible to communicate with Claudio Quesada beforehand to coordinate the visit (by email at volunteers@racsa.co.cr) or by phone at number 2241-7431.

Food and lodging
There are cabins in the locality but you may also camp. There are some restaurants, mainly of the local people. Local communities are dedicated to ecotourism and the protection of their biodiversity. For more information on other sites you may visit webpages http://www.hotels.co.cr/ or http://www.govisitcostarica.com/.

¿Volunteer work?
To perform volunteer work for the conservation and protection of marine turtles in Gandoca, you may visit www.latinamericanseaturtles.org or communicate directly with coordinator Claudio Quesada in charge of the volunteer programs, by email at claudio@widecast.org .  Volunteers usually lodge at local homes or at the camp site, thus contributing to the local economy.

Contacts
 / ©: Carlos Drews/WWF LAC
Leatherback hatchling crawling towards the sea
© Carlos Drews/WWF LAC

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